By Mardeio Cannon | OBSERVER Columnist

Mardeio Cannon
Mardeio Cannon

When Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion “Prime Time” Sanders announced last week that he had accepted the head football coaching position at Colorado, it brought a firestorm of controversy among the African American community. Sanders left for Colorado following a very successful stint as coach of Jackson State, an HBCU located in Jackson, Mississippi. It was his first coaching job.

Sanders brought a new level of interest and excitement to Jackson State and HBCUs. He led Jackson State to the Southwestern Athletic Conference title this year with an undefeated record. This was accomplished with his son as the quarterback.

From reading some Facebook posts and hearing some commentary, many people in the African American community feel that Sanders has betrayed his football team, the HBCU community and African Americans by leaving Jackson State for Colorado.

I have a strong disagreement with that!

First of all, Sanders is wired like all successful coaches in that they have a strong desire to succeed at the highest level. Sanders coming to an HBCU and having the success he did really brought a lot of attention to HBCUs. Unlike the late Eddie Robinson, the highly successful Hall-of-Fame coach at Grambling State University who, despite his success, didn’t have a chance to move up to a Division I school or the NFL. The landscape for African American head coaches has changed even though progress is at a snail’s pace. There are Black head coaches in both the Power Five Division I and the NFL.

It was just a matter of time with his success at Jackson State that other opportunities would be coming Sanders’ way. I am disappointed that when the top job became vacant at Auburn that he wasn’t given the opportunity to land that job! Sanders would have changed the culture at Auburn and would have been a thorn in the side of Nick Saban at Alabama and the rest of the Southeastern Conference. I believe racism played a role in Sanders not getting an opportunity for that job.

Colorado was 1-11 this season. It has fallen on hard times. With USC and UCLA both leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 10, the Buffaloes have a chance to rise to the top of the conference soon with Sanders’ ability to bring in top recruits.

HBCUs will survive and because of Deion Sanders, many more top African American football players will now consider them.

Meanwhile, I predict that Sanders will have major success at Colorado soon with his son at quarterback and this could be his ticket to land an NFL head coaching job.